Last down-memory trip before boarding the metro to future


Plaza, #18, South Parade, Bangalore — 560001. That address harks back to an era most neo-Bangaloreans would be unfamiliar with. It was a period when watching films was a rarity, when English soldiers used to waltz on the wooden-floor ballroom at the Plaza Theatre, when hard drinks were served to patrons who came to watch movies there…

As 70-year-old A K Ananth Narrain, who has seen the South Parade transform into M G Road, skims through old property documents of this address and goes over black-and-white photos of a bygone era, he fondly remembers how The Ten Commandments, an epic film dramatising the biblical story of the Exodus, ran for 41 weeks. Today, as Namma Metro rolls into the MG Road station for which Plaza Theatre was acquired, the family gets nostalgic but has no regrets.

“You will have to accept the change as nothing is frozen in time. Attachment is the root of all problems. Enjoy it as long as it lasts,” Ananth Narrain, former co-owner of Plaza and honorary secretary of RBANM’s Educational Charities, told Bangalore Mirror.

The 17,000 sq ft plot that the Plaza Theatre once occupied was part of the prime land on MG Road belonging to Arcot Narrainsawmy Mudaliar’s family since 1873. The family now owns the RBANM chain of educational institutions. When the property was divided in the 1920s, the plot on which Plaza Theatre later came up went to A S Krishnamurthy and A S Raja Manickavelu. The brothers planned to build a movie hall and when Krishnamurthy went to England, he visited theatres there and came away fascinated with the Plaza Theatre at Piccadilly Circus. That’s how the cinema hall got its name. 

The theatre inaugurated on February 10, 1936. Broadway Melody of 1936 was the first movie screened. There were two shows, and 433 seats were filled up on the first day. Two films were screened every week, with three shows each day. The theatre mostly catered to the British soldiers as South Parade was in the Cantonment area.

“Initially, the business was terrible and depended on the British troops which moved in and out of the area. Bangaloreans took quite some time, till 1960, to catch up with the English movie-viewing culture,” Narrain said.

In 1936, tickets were priced between 9 annas and Rs 2 and 8 annas — from Gandhi Class to Dress Circle. In 1960, the rates went up to 75 paise and Rs 2.75. By 2005, the balcony tickets were selling at Rs 70.

With the advent of multiplexes in the late Nineties, singlescreen theatres started running out of business. That’s when the family decided to sell the theatre. The last movie screened was Meet the Fockers — on March 17, 2005.

The theatre was then sold to Shravanee Properties Limited, owned by a miner who wanted to build a commercial complex. But before he could get his project started, the BMRCL notified the space for Metro.
The oldest surviving landmark on South Parade was brought down to make way for the Metro. But as the family says, “Nothing is frozen in time.”

Six years after the movie hall shut down, the family wants to preserve the city’s heritage by offering old photographs of Bangalore’s treasured cinema house for BMRCL to display at the station which stands on the other side. One is a black-and-white picture clicked in 1938 and the other a colour photograph taken in 1994.

“I was the co-owner of the erstwhile Plaza theatre which our family ran from 1936 to 2005. I am enclosing on behalf of the family two photos of the theatre. After approval from your end, we are prepared to donate a photograph of any size and framing of any kind for display in the MG Road Station,’’ A K Ananth Narrain wrote to BMRCL managing director N Sivasailam on September 29.

He is yet to get a response. When that happens, we could get some sepia-tinted memories of a movie hall that screened Ten Commandments and Roman Holiday.

The Ten Commandments ran for 41 weeks at the Plaza Theatre, recalls former co-owner A K Ananth Narrain

7 Responses to “Last down-memory trip before boarding the metro to future”

  1. Thanks for this wonderful piece Shetty.. there’s always something very mournful about such writing.. the vanishing of these theaters is I think in our world the clearest index of the disappearance of an entire archive of culture and memory and really a way of life.


  2. I hope they get a positive response about putting up these pictures in the station buildin.
    It’s quite a common thing to see old photographs in buildings showing what stood there earlier.

    Thank you for this.


    • Yeah — even in a historical monument like Humayun’s tomb, they have pics of what it looked like before restoration (I know that serves a different purpose, it’s like a “before” and “after” pic, but still, I find those old shots moving)…


  3. iffrononfire Says:

    congrats for namma.. hopefully hyderabad and mumbai have soon theirs

    whenever i have visited m.g road have good memories …crowd is fairly active especially on weekends


  4. Thanks for those wonderful links Munna and Satyam


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